Ethnic Groups of Pennsylvania

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This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Pennsylvania Family History Research series.
History of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Vital Records
Census Records for Pennsylvania
Background Sources for Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Maps
Pennsylvania Land Records
Pennsylvania Probate Records
Pennsylvania Court Records
Pennsylvania Tax Records
Pennsylvania Cemetery Records
Pennsylvania Church Records
Pennsylvania Military Records
Pennsylvania Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Pennsylvania Archives, Libraries and Societies
Pennsylvania Immigration
Pennsylvania Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania County Resources
Map of Pennsylvania


African American

Ruth E. Hodge’s Guide to African American Resources at the Pennsylvania State Archives (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2000) replaces an earlier work by David McBride. McBride also edited Blacks in Pennsylvania History: Research and Educational Perspectives (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1983). Charles L. Blockson, Pennsylvania’s Black History (Philadelphia: Portfolio Association, 1975) is another useful work. For other sources, see also the Pennsylvania chapter in Black Genesis.

Native American

Among the tribes in Pennsylvania were the Lenni-Lenape (or Delaware) in the east, the Susquehannock and Shawnee along the Susquehanna River, and the Iroquois Five Nations who migrated down from New York in the west. See Paul A.W. Wallace, Indians of Pennsylvania, 2d ed. (1986), and his Indian Paths of Pennsylvania (1987), both published by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg. (See also Kraft’s The Lenape under Ethnic Groups of New Jersey.)

Other Ethnic Groups

John E. Bodnar, Ethnic History in Pennsylvania: A Selected Bibliography (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1974) covers published and manuscript material. Also useful is David E. Washburn, comp. and ed., The Peoples of Pennsylvania: An Annotated Bibliography of Resource Materials (Pittsburgh: University for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 1981).

The “big three” colonial Pennsylvania immigrant groups have all been covered in great detail in published material. Some selected titles are the following:

  • William Wistar Comfort, The Quakers (University Park: Pennsylvania Historical Association, 1948), while brief, includes a helpful bibliography; see also Albert Cook Myers, Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1682–1750 (1902; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969); and Hugh Barbour and J. William Frost, The Quakers (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988).
  • Emil Meynen, Bibliography on German Settlements in Colonial North America, Especially on the Pennsylvania Germans and Their Descendants, 1683–1933 (1937; reprint, Gale Research Corp., 1966) is useful, and Russell Wieder Gilbert, A Picture of the Pennsylvania Germans (University Park: Pennsylvania Historical Association, 1962) has a bibliography.
  • John A. Hostetler, Amish Society (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983) explains the beliefs and practices of this group.

For the Ulster-Scots, see Wayland F. Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (1944; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985); and Charles K. Bolton, Scotch Irish Pioneers of Ulster and America (1910; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972).

For information on the early Swedes in Pennsylvania, see the titles listed under Background Sources for Pennsylvania.

Another early immigrant group is covered in Albert Bernhardt Faust and Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh’s Lists of Swiss Immigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies, 2 vols. in one (1920–25; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1991).

While not one of the major three immigrant groups, the Welsh have received good treatment in print. See Thomas Allen Glenn, Merion in the Welsh Tract (1896; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1970) and Welsh Families of Pennsylvania, 2 vols. (1911–13; reprinted in one volume, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1970, 1991). Although known for unreliable publications, Charles H. Browning’s Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania (1912; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1970) is a worthwhile work. It also includes Welsh Quakers.

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